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Showing posts from December, 2008

The Gaza Strip

Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip seem to be more driven by an emotional desire for revenge than a proportionate response to deal with a defined threat. This is a time when the UN Security Council should meet as it appears that Israel are intent on using the US Carte Blanche until the change of administration. Whether this would have any practical effect is unclear, but at least it would kick off some forum for consideration of the issue. Tony Blair's role as Middle Eastern Envoy seems to continue the tacit support of Israeli attacks in the same way that his government initially supported the attack on Lebanon - in the sense that they did not support a ceasefire. Given that futile violent gestures, such as the original rocket attacks on Israel, are driven by an desire for revenge it does not appear that this approach will reduce that desire.

ARW a second story

The link is to a second story in The Telegraph. What I find sad in some many of the cases I see is that the use of the state "hammer" doesn't really help anyone other than possibly government target numbercrunchers. Obviously I don't see the cases where the system is getting things right, but I worry about how many times the actions taken by the state make things worse. The evidence in international statistics are that England (and Wales) do particularly badly in terms of child protection. It has taken me a little time to find any comparative statistics, but I do now have them.

Election Fraud At shock

Well perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. Its an election. If anyone is bothered as to who wins then there is a chance someone will try to fiddle it. Congratulations to Sean Thomas for winning until the poll was suspended through fraud. Still when some idiot on the square box next goes on about how more people vote in xxx reality TV programme remember to mentally ask the question as to how many votes each "voter" is casting. Many of these pay to vote systems rely on peoples willingness to bung a few calls at their chosen candidate. Hence when people talk about how there is a greater interest in voting in reality TV than local elections they merely demonstrate their ignorance of the facts. Hopefully there is a greater sensitivity to election fraud now. I am, however, not certain that there is sufficient concern.

Smith v ADVFN - internet fora and Libel

The link is to Smith v ADVFN Ltd [2008] EWHC 1797 (QB) which is also discussed at This is a judgment by High Court Justice Eady (he also of the Max Moseley case). I hadn't spotted this one, but it raises an interesting point in respect of the spats and trolling that goes on in internet fora. This case was one where a Nigel Smith issued 37 different defamation writs against a various posters on ADVFN's bulletin boards . Those with time should read the judgment, but part of it follows: The nature of bulletin boards It is necessary to have well in mind the nature of bulletin board communications, which are a relatively recent development. This is central to a proper consideration of all the matters now before the court. This has been explained in the material before me and is, in any event, nowadays a matter of general knowledge. Particular characteristics which I should have in mind are that they are read by relatively few people, most of whom will share an intere

Thomas Edison - a Peak Oiler before his time

The point about the Peak Oil Theory is that it is not a theory. It is a fact that Fossil Fuels are called such because they were made a long long long time ago and are not being made any more. Hence at some point global production will peak. The only question is when (and in part what happens to production after that whether it falls off a cliff or gently edges downward). The link is to a 2007 NY Times article in respect of Thomas Edison's views on sustainability. Quoting from part of the article: Edison also, like other scientists of his day, was beginning to understand even then that fossil fuels wouldn’t last forever. In 1913 Scientific American published an issue on energy problems, observing: “The question of the possible exhaustion of the world’s oil supply deserves the gravest consideration. There is every indication that we are face to face with this possibility.” Articles delved into technologies to capture the power of the sun, the wind, the tide and even the earth’s ro

Votes - keep them on paper - count them by hand

The link is to the story from the USA about the death of someone in a suspicious plane crash last week. The someone is someone thought to have been involved in the use of IT to defraud the 2004 election in the USA. If we wish to keep elections honest then we have to keep voting in secret on paper and counting the pieces of paper by hand. It is not possible to publicly audit electronic systems to a sufficient standard to keep elections honest. There are two Youtube extracts on the web page linked, both are interesting web pages.

ARW - a Mum on the run with her children

The link is to the story in the Sunday Telegraph today about a mother who was "on the run" with two children having been persecuted by the Family Courts in England and Wales. She (ARW) is not on the run any more. She has decided to "stand and fight". Her 6 year old son (L) is settled in school in the Republic of Ireland. Her baby son Marco is very well. The local Social Workers came to see ARW on Friday and confirmed that everyone is well and no children are at risk. However, Devon County Council have indicated that they want to remove L from his mother and brother and put him in foster care in England. This case is much like the one highlighted by The Times. The reason for L being "in care" is as ludicrous as that for "S" in the other case. In both cases mum left the country whilst pregnant in part because of the threat of removing the unborn baby at birth. In ARW's case the argument was that L suffered "emotional abuse" as a re

Child Protection work Today

The link is to another article essentially confirming the thesis propounded by Sue White, Allan Norman and myself First para: Having spent almost 20 years working in residential child care I now teach social work. I was horrified (although sadly not altogether surprised) when a student reported back from a field visit that she had been told by a children and families social worker, ‘we don’t do relationships anymore”. It wasn’t even said with regret apparently, just a statement of what the social work role had become. In fact it seemed to the student that there appeared to be an almost ‘macho’ element in the assertion ‘ ‘forget that namby-pamby stuff they teach you in University, this is the real world’. In this ‘real world’ social workers spend most of their day policing and processing families from a distance. They rarely see them anymore but are quick to send letters telling them that they have ‘failed’ the appointment made for them in the social work office, now relocated, off the

Phil Thompson and some of his family - Great Grandparents Rights

The picture is of Phil O Gorman, his grandfather Phil Thompson and Sara O Gorman his mother. Clayton v Clayton changed the law so that identifying parties to a Family Court case subsequent to the case is not contempt of Court. I will, however, not identify the Children in respect of this case. Phil Thompson has three children, nine grandchildren and six great grandchildren of whom three have been removed from the family by arbitrary state action in order to satisfy government targets. The three were the children of Phil O Gorman and grandchildren of Sara O Gorman. On 9th May 2006 after a sequence of events that completely confused the family the three children were forcibly adopted by a decision of the magistrates in Walsall Family Proceedings Court. Since that point the Family have been trying to find out what happened and why the children were adopted and what is now happening to the children. They first contacted me in 2007. It has not been possible to obtain any detailed reasoni

Bloggers, Libel, The EU and Bridget Prentice

There have been a few thrashings around in cyberspace about the EU and blogging and potential changes to the law to make "suing bloggers easier". Obligatory Disclaimer: My formal qualifications are in Nuclear Physics not law. If you follow my advice on law as opposed to how to blow the world up, don't sue me if I am wrong. However, I have been on both ends of libel actions as well as assisted as a Mackenzie Friend in a Malicious Falsehood action (which was the funniest court case I ever attended). Libel is an interesting area of law. It along with Privacy, enciting hatred and Contempt of Court are the key areas in which constraints of Freedom of Speech apply. There was an interesting event about libel tourism before the summer recess. First point. Britain has libel laws which make it quite easy to sue. For someone to win the defendant needs to be unable to prove what they said about the claimant is true. In the USA the claimant needs to prove what the defendant says

Will we run out of gas this winter

The linked article thinks so. I have not as yet done my own analysis. What I have found previously is that we use gas in the wrong sequence and use stored gas in preference to importing more. What happens when the stored gas runs out is then unclear. It depends upon whether gas is available either as LNG to be regasified or at the ends of the pipelines.

Results: Thursday 18th December 2008.

Cumbria CC, Kells and Sandwith Lab 434 (41.7; -24.1) BNP 418 (40.1; +40.1) Con 190 (18.2; +1.2) [Ind (0.0; -17.2)] Majority 16 Turnout 26.6% Lab hold Percentage change is since May 2005. Isle of Wight UA, Newchurch LD Colin Richards 389 (39.7; +39.7) Con 377 (38.5; -8.0) Ind 213 (21.8; -19.3) [Ind (0.0; -12.4)] Majority 12 Turnout 44.7% LD gain from Con Percentage change is since May 2005. North Somerset UA, Weston Super Mare Clarence and Uphill Con 478 (27.5; -33.6) Ind 477 (27.5; +27.5) LD Paula Howell 421 (24.3; -4.1) Ind 228 (13.1; +13.1) Lab 132 (7.6; -2.9) Majority 1 Turnout 24.6% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2007. North West Leicestershire DC, Ibstock and Heather Con 660 (31.5; -3.9) BNP 645 (30.8; +30.8) Lab 614 (29.3; -4.7) LD David Wyatt 174 (8.3; -2.5) [UKIP (0.0; -19.8)] Majority 15 Turnout not known Con hold Percentage change is since May 2007. Rhondda Cynon Taff UA, Glyncoch Lab 217 (50.5; -19.9) Ind 143 (33.3; +33.3) PC 47 (10.9; -8.7) Welsh Communists 12 (2.8

Susan Holdsworth - not guilty

The link is to the story about Susan Holdsworth. This was an expert evidence story. The situation in the family courts, however, would not necessarily be the same. Yesterday someone I cannot name (J) had a criminal case against him dismissed because there was no evidence against him. However, his children remain in care for essentially the same allegation. He has been sitting with this criminal case hanging over him for about 6 months as it was delayed and deferred. The question is what the Family Courts now do. His case is interesting and may end up in the European Court at some stage. However, the urgent thing is to try to get his children out of care. Why the Local Auhority wishes to torment the children by keeping them in care over christmas is a question the LA needs to answer. There was a meeting on monday based upon the recent Lancet report. One of the authors was there to talk abont the issues. I had considerable agreement with her about the issues although I would not

Madoff - another list

Reuters have produced another list of losers from Madoff. What is interesting is the large exposure from banks who lent money to Hedge Funds to invest with Madoff. Some reports indicate that he started to go wrong in 2005. It strikes me as unlikely that $50bn of losses could build up in such a short period. Still this has quite a bit of unravelling to do.

Madoff - "Made off" with $50bn

The link is to a list of organisations (people) who have lost in the Madoff Ponzi Scheme. There is an important principle to remember in financial services (and life generally) which is that if something is "too good to be true", then most likely it either isn't good or it isn't true. This was one that wasn't true. I am surprised that this was not picked up by the SEC, however. This one will reverberate a bit. Some of the people who have sent money his way have then benefited by also reporting high returns - that are not real returns.

Rights for Great Grandparents

The linked story in the Sunday Mercury is a case I have been dealing with for some time. It has been very difficult to get to the bottom of what happened and in fact we have failed to get all the information. The courts have lost their file. In the mean time, however we have managed to start an action which can be taken to the European Court. It will be an interesting one as it looks at the question as to whether Grandparents or Great Grandparents have any Article 8 rights. In English law there are no such rights, but there are logically some under the ECHR.

Government Concede on Serious Case Reviews

The link is to the Queen's Speech debate on Children. 15 months ago I was the only person publicly raising concerns about "false negatives" in child protection where the system was failing to protect children. Now it is one of the key news items. The government are still unclear as to the dimensions of the problem although Ofsted have produced some figures. During the debate I obtained the agreement of the Chairman of the Children's Select Committee in assisting to track the true size of the problem. Later on, however, Ed Ball conceded my request for the information saying: "Although I do not agree with everything John Hemming has said, I know he is committed to the cause for which he campaigns, and I can say to him today that, following the Ofsted reports of recent weeks, we will be able to give him the detailed information that he wants on serious case review numbers." He continues to miss one of the key points on the writing of SCR's however (which is

Results: Thursday 11th December 2008.

East Ayrshire UA, Ballochmyle Full details not yet available Lab hold Turnout 29%. Fenland DC, Parson Drove and Wisbech St Mary Con 512 (50.6; -49.4) LD Gavin Booth 208 (20.6; +20.6) Lab 190 (18.8; +18.8) Green 101 (10.0; +10.0) Majority 304 Turnout not known Con hold Percentage change is since May 2007 (Con unopposed) Hillingdon LBC, Northwood Con 1216 (64.4; -1.20) LD Alan Prue 466 (24.7; +3.8) Lab 116 (6.1; +6.1) Green 66 (3.5; +3.5) Ind 25 (1.3; -12.2) Majority 750 Turnout 22.1% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2006 Newark and Sherwood DC, Clipstone Lab 326 (43.4; +7.3) LD Christopher Orton 216 (28.8; +28.8) Ind 157 (20.9; -22.3) Con 52 (6.9; -13.8) Majority 110 Turnout 22.9% Lab gain from Ind Percentage change is since May 2007 North Ayrshire UA, Kilbirnie and Beith Details not yet available. Bradfield PC, Stannington LD Katie Condliffe 763 (79.2) Con 200 (20.8) Majority 563 Turnout 22% LD hold

Slight movement towards sanity from Government on Peak Oil

The link is to the minutes of the European Committee C on Higher Oil Prices. A rare moment of almost sense on the issue of Peak Oil from government Minister Mike O Brien This is from columns 11 and 12. Steve Webb: As this is a helpful forum in which to have a measured question and answer session, rather than the frustrating soundbites that we get during questions in the Chamber, it is good to take the opportunity to raise a second issue. If I say the words “peak” and “oil” in the same sentence, people may have glazed expressions and there might be some concern about where I am heading, but I wonder whether the Minister could tell us the Government’s position on the first report—I was given it yesterday, but I do not know whether it is newly published—of the UK industry taskforce on peak oil and energy security? Serious organisations are involved in it, including one of the big six energy companies. It will take me just a moment to clarify my question, if you will allow me to do so, Mr.

Whistleblowing: The Chinese Solution

The link talks about sending Whistleblowers to mental hospital. In the UK it is the straightforward arrest as part of an illegal criminal prosecution. What the UK also does is to displace people from having a legal position with the use of unchallengeable experts.

We're all you've got

The battles about the 1600s were about the power of the King and his servants vis a vis the power of the people. The King has now been replaced with the Prime Minister. One problem with our constitution is that the Prime Minister substantially controls the Legislature. When it comes to a legal way involving the use of words rather than force for the people to control the King the only solution is parliament. To that extent: "We're all you've got." If King Gordon can have MPs locked up for telling the truth about what the King is doing that is embarrassing then this undermines democracy and moves towards tyranny. Today there was a vote as to whether the government (King Gordon) should have a majority on the committee (7 members) established to look at what rights the people have to hear the truth. By 285 votes to 281 the King got his way. It was futile because both Lib Dems and Conservatives have said they won't provide King Gordon with a figleaf to conceal his

Contempt of Parliament in 2004

The link is to Hansard in which the following exchange occurred Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your advice on a point of order of which I have given you notice. As you know, robust debate is in the nature of politics and no one, least of all you, would want to inhibit that. However, I hope that you agree with me that there is an important distinction to be made between matters of argument and the deliberate misreporting outside this place of proceedings within it, including the doctoring of quotes from Hansard and the invention of votes by hon. Members on motions that were never moved. My point of order, Mr. Speaker, is to say that that is what has been happening in Birmingham, where a Conservative councillor, Peter Douglas Osborn, distributed a leaflet misreporting a Hansard quote from the Minister for E-Commerce, Energy and Postal Services in respect of the Post Office urban reinvention programme. You will also be aware that C

Wider review - but is it wide enough

The government are now widening up the review post Baby P. I am, however, not certain that this is wide enough. Unless they review the procedures of the Family Courts they will not get the system to work properly. The problem is that the system is chocabloc with conflicts of interests. The rules that prevent people from getting second expert opinions act as a factory for miscarriages of justice. It also creates an environment in which the whip hand is held by the local authority legal department. Some parents's solicitors then end up doing the bidding of the LA rather than their client. The same pressures exist with Cafcass. The social workers justify their actions on the basis that the court accepts the proposals. "Advocating for the child" includes pressurising experts to change their reports to suit the LA. That means that the whole decision-making process is driven by management decisions within the LA. This doesn't always happen and it remains possible for

Benefits Reform

The issue of Benefits reform is back on the agenda. Whilst I accept the thesis that the tax and benefits system should act to encourage behaviour that society wishes to see and discourage that which we don't, it also needs to be fair. They have been tightening up on Disability Benefits recently. That has resulted in some really stupid decisions. One recent one I saw had only temporary disability benefits provided to a man who had had his leg amputated. Clearly someone in the DWP thought the leg would grow back. It is important to remember that there are real people on the end of the decisions driven by targets in the DWP. Sometimes these things get sorted out, but at other times they don't. One really cruel policy is to fine people who appeal the removal of disability benefits by reducing their benefits whilst the appeal goes on. That is not just reducing the disability, but reducing Income Support/JSA by 20% below what it is deemed to be necessary to live on.

The Spectator on Fostering Agency issues

The link is to a story about another aspect of the child protection system. It contains a story in which there is an example of a common technique that institutions use to deal with criticism of attacking the messenger with false allegations. It is claimed that people are "learning lessons" when more effort is going into covering up failure.

Results: Thursday 4th December 2008.

Bradford City MBC, Bingley Con 1949 (59.9; -3.1) Lab 689 (21.2; +4.4) LD Jean Taylor 332 (10.2; -1.4) Green 175 (5.4; -3.3) Democratic Nationalists 61 (1.9; +1.9) UKIP 49 (1.5; +1.5) Majority 1260 Turnout 25% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2008 Braintree DC, The Three Colnes Con 647 (77.0; +24.5) Lab 121 (14.4; +4.1) Green 72 (8.6; +8.6) [Ind (0.0; -37.2)] Majority 526 Turnout 21.5% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2007 Colchester BC, Birch and Winstree Con 745 (58.1; -12.1) LD Jon Longman 423 (33.0; +14.1) Lab 83 (6.5; +0.4) Green 32 (2.5; -2.5) Majority 322 Turnout 29.3% Con hold Percentage change is since May 2007 Rugby BC, Avon and Swift Con 361 (56.9; -12.0) LD David Elson 153 (24.1; +9.0) Lab 84 (13.2; -2.8) Green 37 (5.8; +5.8) Majority 208 Turnout not known Con hold Percentage change is since May 2008 Waltham Forest LBC, Hale End and Highams Park LD Jane Morgan 1298/Nick Bason 1295 (44.3; +2.4) Con 1223/1155 (41.8; +4.6) Lab 264/241 (9.0; -2.3) Green 142 (4.9; -

Stuart Syvret gets the Damian Green treatment

Following on from the lead of the UK government in having police investigate leaks of government information as a criminal matter and hence persecuting effective opposition politicians the States of Jersey have kicked off a leak inquiry and are asking police to investigate Senator Stuart Syvret over an internal memo. The odd thing about the English case is that it involves at least some information (if not all of it) that is covered by the Freedom of Information Act. That means that the mole was under a duty to provide the information if asked for it. This gives a complete defence of Question 1. Do you have any information which is embarrassing to the goverment and can I have a list of it. Question 2. Please give me item 1, item 2 etc on the answer to question 1. A bit odd to prosecute someone for doing what is their duty. This applies to Damian Green in any event as it was his duty to hold the government to account.

Leaking and Motivation

The government are trying to open up a completely new argument in respect of the arrest of Damian Green. They are trying to approach it from the perspective that the motivation of the leaker matters. The point about parliamentary privilege is that communicating with an MP is privileged meaning that it cannot be criminal to talk to an MP. If it cannot be criminal then it does not matter what the motivation is. The way they government are trying to take the debate would lead to a code of conduct for moles who would not be allowed to accept even a cup of tea from the leakees. Preventing opposition politicians from using leaked information is a massive undermining of democracy. It is the same issue with whistleblowing anywhere. It is important to protect whistleblowers from suffering as a result of whistleblowing. The government's argument is that whistleblowers must never benefit from whistleblowing. You can have it one way or the other.

Brown on Green

Gordon Brown has decisively acted in respect of the Damian Green. He has announced that he will dither until he knows which way the wind is blowing and then jump on the most reliable bandwagon. It is very sad. This is an issue that should be easy to understand. It relates entirely to the work of an MP. It is something that most successful politicians have been involved in. If MPs are liable for arrest for being leaked to then that creates a massive problem. OK you might entice someone to leak by buying a pint of beer. Does that really cause a problem. I really don't think Labour understand what this is about.